National Pizza Month: Exploring Regional Pizza Styles Across the United States
October is a month of crisp autumn leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and a whole lot of pizza! That's right, pizza lovers unite because it's National Pizza Month! What better way to celebrate this cheesy occasion than by embarking on a mouthwatering journey across the United States to explore the diverse and delicious regional pizza styles that make our nation's love affair with pizza so unique.
New York, New York - The Big Apple's Classic Slice:
Let's kick off our pizza adventure in the city that never sleeps, where you can find the classic New York-style pizza. New York is where the American pizza restaurant is said to have been officially born in 1905, at the hands of Gennaro Lombardi, according to Food&Wine.
Like all things Americanized, the New York slice is oversized. These slices are known for their large, floppy thin, foldable slices, deliciously tangy tomato sauce, and generous cheese topping. If you have to fold it to eat it, it's probably a New York style slice. You haven't truly experienced the city until you've grabbed a slice and devoured it while strolling through Central Park!
Chicago, Illinois - Deep Dish Delight:
Head west to the Windy City and indulge in the iconic deep-dish pizza. These recognizable Chicago style pies are a hearty meal in themselves, with a thick, buttery crust that cradles layers of cheese, toppings, and a chunky tomato sauce. Chicago-style pizza is the perfect comfort food to warm you up during those chilly Midwestern nights.
Chicago deep dish came to life in the early '40s, when soldiers were coming back from war and Americans were indulging in "ethnic" foods, such as pizza. "Texan Ike Sewell originally wanted to open up a Mexican restaurant like the ones he'd grown up with, but his friend and business partner Ric Riccardo had recently come back from Italy with fond memories of Neapolitan pizza. When they tested recipes, though, Sewell kept wanting it bigger and heftier, in true Texas fashion—that's according to Penny Pollack, former longstanding dining editor at Chicago Magazine." - via Food&Wine.
New Haven, Connecticut - Apizza Perfection:
Connecticut may be small, but it's big on flavor when it comes to pizza. In New Haven, they've perfected the art of 'apizza,' pronounced "ah-beetz." New Haven-style pizza is renowned for its thin, crispy, and slightly charred crust. The crust is typically cooked in extremely hot coal-fired or wood-burning ovens, which give it a smoky flavor and a delicious crunch.
Traditional New Haven-style pizza keeps toppings simple and sparse. The most iconic variety is the "New Haven plain" or "apizza" topped only with tomato sauce, oregano, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Other popular toppings include clams (creating the "white clam pizza") or other fresh ingredients like sausage or peppers.
Frank Pepe is universally acknowledged to be the creator of the New Haven-style pizza in the 1920s. "He started out delivering pizzas to Italian workers in the city's rubber and hardware factories, and later opened Pepe's in the city's Little Italy in 1925. Today, it continues to be the most famous and longest running New Haven pizza restaurant." - via Food&Wine.
Detroit, Michigan - Square and Savory:
Head north to the Motor City, where you'll discover Detroit-style pizza. These square-shaped masterpieces feature a thick, crispy crust, caramelized cheese edges, and a sweet, tomatoey sauce. Traditional Detroit-style pizza toppings are pressed directly onto the dough, then sprinkled with cheese, and lastly, ladled with sauce - this helps to prevent soggy crust. The unique presentation and bold flavors are bound to leave you craving more.
The shape of Detroit-style pizza is a function of something more important: the blue steel automotive pan it's cooked in. This pan is the kind that was used in car factories to hold hardware parts and catch grease decades ago! Legend has it that the originator of Detroit-style pizza, Gus Guerra, got these pans from a factory-worker friend, while his Sicilian mother-in-law furnished the recipe.
San Francisco, California - Farm-to-Pizza Table:
On the West Coast, San Francisco's artisanal pizza scene shines. When it comes to this style pizza, there's talk about farmers' markets, seasonality, and local produce. There isn't really a defined crust or shape to these pies and they seem to lack a distinct style of their own. A pie might come with toppings like goat cheese, house-made sausage and garlic. In 1791, Alice Waters created a leeks and duck confit pizza at Chez Panisse. In 1980, Ed LaDou concocted pizzas with ricotta and pâté in San Francisco. When it comes to California style pizza, the variety of styles is its style!
With a focus on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, these pizzas are a celebration of California's diverse culinary offerings. Try a slice topped with fresh produce and creative combinations that reflect the Golden State's culinary spirit.
National Pizza Month is the perfect time to embark on a pizza pilgrimage across the United States. Each regional style tells a unique culinary story, and whether you're a purist who craves the classics or an adventurous eater seeking innovative toppings, there's a slice for every palate. So, grab a slice (or several) and celebrate this cheesy, saucy, and utterly delicious month of pizza appreciation!